Hey you, what’s good? If you are a returning reader, welcome back, and if this is your first time, thank you and I appreciate you. As much as I would like for you to absolutely love what I write, and do jumping jacks with every word, maybe even break dance to my dry humor I know that’s not necessarily how this works, unfortunately. However, maybe more importantly, I do hope you get encouraged and we connect in some way, shape or form. Seriously! do jumping jacks, it’s a good exercise. Trust me.
When we think about the month of February, four common things usually come to mind. One, black history month. Two, shortest month of the year. Three, it possibly being a leap of course, depending on the date (this year is!) And lastly, which is probably the most common answer – “the month of love.” “Love”, it is shoved down our throats, left, right and center through books, tv and more prevalent – social media. How to do it, when to do it, who to do it with/for. People are nervously anticipating if they will be someone’s valentine or not, looking at someone’s feed alone can make you question the validity of your relationships. Chocolate, flowers, dinner reservations, greeting cards. You have to applaud the commercialization for real. Good marketing strategy yes, but at what “cost” (notice the pun) to us? Don’t answer that yet, we will circle back, but first things first; do we actually know what the heck we are celebrating? What the (insert choice word here, go ahead, it’s okay) is love anyway?
Have you ever wondered why a parent would abandon a child they birthed? Or why long term married couples get divorced because they grew out of love? No? Let’s get more personal, you ever get scared of getting married? Being a good spouse? Being a good parent? Caring for someone? Yes? Well I have too, I did for a good chunk of my life. I was so concerned about relationships and my effectiveness in them. I felt like I was either going to suck at it really really bad, or I was gonna get hurt, really really bad. I am Nigerian, born and raised in West Africa. I’m the first of my sibling group of four. I barely heard my parents say “I love you” to each other talk less of saying it to me. And in the few rare moments it was said, super awkward and unnatural. I mean they cared for us, I think and even though I was young, I was still able to deduce that they cared for each other to a certain extent. However, it didn’t feel like the love I saw in movies or read in novels. You know, the family where the parents are like always there for their kids and they say encouraging things and just love them regardless. Ours didn’t feel like that. I mean my parents were together physically but it did not feel like they were emotionally and it confused the heck out of me. So I wasn’t in an environment where I could learn what love was, what it looked like, what it felt like. At some point I thought I was dead inside. And as I grew older the experiences around me only conspired to confirm that. One day, you see couples who say stuff like I’m so in love with him and he is the absolute best and the next day, they can’t stand the sight of each other. Or you see best friends in school for years and all of a sudden, sworn mortal enemies. How cute but what changed? Most of us know it is not a fairy tale but should it feel like it? I think that is the complicated part. Love can and should be expressed in so many ways depending on the nature of the relationship. But what are you expressing?
I actually had my girl meets boy moment. Netflix style. It was weird but yet kinda felt good. I really liked this guy. I mean I told myself I didn’t, or I couldn’t but I don’t know. I just felt different, in a good way around him. Your feelings betray you, regardless of what you think you know or don’t, what you say or don’t say, your heart feels and your body expresses. It’s a law of emotional science. Anyway, long story short it obviously didn’t work out but you know what? I actually enjoyed that experience. The good thing is that even though I realized that this is definitely not love, I was relieved that at the very least I could feel something. I truly wasn’t completely dead inside. Phew.
This love you “feel”, that gets you excited is good and maybe it is some form of expression but at the very best it’s an indication that you like something. That’s it, just an indication. Let’s think about it this way for the sake of seeing things from another perspective. Why would anyone even want love to be a feeling? Feelings are so inconsistent, so erratic, very transactional and fleeting. Read that again and ask yourself if that is how you want your emotional indicators to be when you love someone? Or better yet, is that how you would want someone to love you? Erratically and inconsistently? Exactly. Which brings me to my next point.
You are very selfish.
Sigh. Yes you and I are very selfish. Take a deep breath, don’t get too defensive, It’s DNA, it’s inherent in us. Now with that being said, unfortunately it is NOT a good excuse not to be better. You remember the Netflix style girl meets boy moment I had earlier? Yeah, guess who was the bad guy in that movie? Me! Probably shocked right? I always pictured how I wanted who ever I liked to be, to look, to behave. But I never asked myself how I could be better for that person. What if there was something wrong with me? What if I was the issue? It was always if current conditions changed would I still want to be with this person? It was never would they still want to be with me?
I realized that maybe, just maybe I have been doing this romantic love thing wrong. Yes, attraction should be one of the check off boxes in your list of requirements as you get to know someone, and if they do jumping jacks but there are a lot more important factors – deeper and far less superficial that one must consider before entering this sort of relationship. And I would start by saying analyzing our own flaws and shortcomings is one, values being another. Choosing to push and fight even in unfavorable conditions. And all these involves choice, I learnt that through my faith.
I believe love is a choice. For the next few sentences I will try and be as serious and as intentional as possible, heck I will even italicize these sentences just to show you the emphasis level of my love conviction.
I believe love is an act, an action, a verb. Love is a choice. A conscious no emotions attached decision. Love evaluates a person as a whole. It defines you, tests your limits. Am I capable of denying parts of myself for someone other than me? Am I capable of tolerating another person’s flaws, am I capable of forgiveness? Do I follow the cardinal rule, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you?” And once I search the depths of my soul for the truth, Are the answers to those questions yes?
When I was younger I felt broken and unlovable, and that indirectly pushed me to God. Initially I struggled, all my experiences, especially the negative ones, taught me awareness and made me jaded to a certain extent. Predictably, I transmitted that brokenness in my relationship with God. The thing though is when a lot of things failed me, and I had my fair share of fault in them God never did and when I failed others and I couldn’t forgive myself, God forgave me. So the closer I got to God and understood His love for me the more I understood what love is and should be. I’m desperately trying so hard not to come off as preachy (she says, but then proceeds to preach). At the end of the day, in all our relationships, romantic and otherwise, we are all searching. We all want to be loved unconditionally, especially knowing how conditional we are. We want to be cared for regardless of our insecurities, or our upbringing. This is hard because we have been institutionalized to think love is a feeling. But feelings fleet, they disappear. Almost like a scent that wears off after a while, it expires. Choices however don’t, actions don’t. I implore you to seek out your faith and I respect everyone’s unique relationship with God. The answer to what love truly is, is in Him. Allow me to share some scriptures with you. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me and hopefully you can apply it to the areas of your life as necessary.
It will NEVER give up on you. So don’t give up.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 NLT.
The Cardinal Rule.
“…The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:31 NLT
Love is a sacrifice and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NLT
You have been chosen to be loved.
“Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jeremiah 31:3 NLT
…nothing can ever separate you from this love. Don’t be ashamed.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38 NLT
Your life is not, but love is eternal and also the greatest thing one can ever achieve or acquire.
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
That choice is almost always very difficult and it will require sacrifice.
Let’s not get carried away, with all things human related, it is always easier said than done. Unfortunately, we will struggle, and fall, but if you continue to lean on the true meaning of love, and understand that we might be victims by circumstance but we are NOT victims by choice, it would be much easier for you to be better, for you to deal and for you to love. Since this blog is about being vulnerable I might as well tell you the strain that falls on my heart from time to time. It is one of my biggest fears that occasionally creeps up on me and triggers my insecurities. Okay Wendy, enough beating around the bush. Sigh, based on my husband’s past, a woman, a stranger could walk through the doors of my home with a child and claim that it is his. And the worst part is it could be true. I keep asking myself, what will I do? How will I handle that? And to be fully transparent, I absolutely have no idea what I would do. None, but I have to constantly remind myself of what love is, Constantly. If God can show me unconditionally that I matter regardless of my shortcomings, then at the very least I owe that to my husband and to an innocent child to better deal with that potential situation. And dealing, meaning doing my due diligence in loving unconditionally.
This, no matter how tough, is what love is to me and this is entirely a choice.
So what is love to you?
Disclaimer, I know that based on context, perspective and experience, there are most likely so many different interpretations of love. However, the aim for this blog post is for us all to connect through our experiences and to find meaning, strength and encouragement through each expression.
Please comment below with what your interpretation or definition of what love is and any experience that emphasizes that.
With that being said, I hope you enjoyed this month, I hope you bought or received roses, ate some chocolate, went on dates, forgave someone, showed affection to people – deserving or undeserving, forgave yourself, called a sibling, a parent and arguably equally important, I hope you did some jumping jacks. I hope you received love just as much as you gave it, heck even maybe more than you gave it. We can all agree that love should be expressed to its fullest every day not just once a month. However, outside of its commercialization, I’m still pro love month. I mean if it helps people who are not intentional with expressing love to be intentional then great right? If it offers the opportunity to treat your significant other, sibling, child, friend, parent then great right? In such a fast paced world, with a very short attention span dominated by comparison and social aesthetics, so much anger and depression, if something makes us show love in our actions and choose love then great right? Right.